Doing Wrong, Making Right

I have never been good with humility–whenever there is reason for me to be lowly, my physical health is jeopardized. My heart rate increases, my temperature rises, and I find myself dizzy and unstable. All that reaction intensifies in the light of my shame when I know I am wrong. This morning has been no exception.

Haleigh and I started the morning out well enough. She got out of the bed on the first attempt and grudgingly went to her bathroom to begin the morning routine. I left to iron and take care of Ashleigh. After that, Haleigh begin to drag. She sat on the potty for a good 10 minutes. Then she washed her hands and brushed her teeth for another 10 minutes. She took her extreme time to put on her clothes. And I became angry. Then angrier, until I smacked her. Of course, she began to cry. The crying made me angrier–why I do not know. So I told her that I wasn’t going to let her go to Culver’s.

For those of you who don’t know what Culver’s is, it’s a “fast food” restaurant that specializes in the Butterburger and a variety of frozen treats. It’s pretty good food as fast food joints go, but the reason it’s so important to Haleigh isn’t the food. Her preschool hosts fundraisers there where every item purchased between 5-8 p.m. is donated to the school. For 3 hours, the whole place is packed with purple and khaki (their uniform colors). It’s great fun and Haleigh loves, loves, loves being at school and being anywhere where her school mates and teachers are. Yes, I am a spirit crusher. And it only got worse.

Once downstairs, I told her to put on her shoes. Again, she dawdled. And I freaked out. I yelled at her, demanding to know what was wrong with her, screaming that I just don’t understand why she just couldn’t do what I asked her to do, fuming openly and outwardly at her obvious defiance at every turn every morning. Haleigh crumpled. I could tell that she felt like the worst child ever–and still, I would not relent. I blew the biggest huff ever known to womankind, and stalked off to the kitchen to finish doing what I had been doing before I had to stop and roar.

When I came back, Bill had come downstairs and was tying her shoes. He gave her a hug, then said to me, “Children should not be upset before they go to school.” I glared at him in his self righteousness. He’s always so smug and sure of himself. My temperature rose another 5 degrees.

“Well, they shouldn’t be.”

That was his response as he picked up both girls and took them out to the car with hugs and kisses. After he went back inside, I let the garage have it.

“Oh yes, that’s easy for him to say, since he isn’t up fighting with them every single morning. And I guess he’s forgotten all the yelling he’s been doing lately. But of course, I’m always the bad parent. Screw that! “Haleigh, you have GOT to do what I ask you to do in the mornings! I get tired of begging you to do what I want you to do every day.” Now I was near tears. Because I am NOT a bad parent, but I knew at that moment that I was a wrong one.

After I dropped Ashleigh off at the babysitter’s, I drove to Haleigh’s school. The peeks I snuck at her through the rear view mirror revealed a side of her that I rarely see: a real 3-year-old with very hurt feelings and no idea what she had done to make me so upset. I remembered for the umpteenth time this year that she’s only three. I also realized for the first time that I am a big stinky bully in the mornings.

So, when we got to school, I put the van in park and told Haleigh to come to me. I pulled her in my lap and gave her a colossal hug that she returned with all the might that her little 40 pounds self could muster. For the second or third time in what will surely grow into an infinite number of times, I told my firstborn baby girl, “I’m sorry that I yelled at you.” I felt like the bottom of a garbage collector’s shoe when she responded so quietly that I barely heard her, “That’s ok.”

“No, it’s not ok. And I am very sorry. Mommy promises to try not to yell so much anymore, ok?”

“Ok.”

I held her for a few more minutes, listening to her little heartbeat and feeling her little forgiving spirit. When we finally got out of the car, she had perked up and I felt a lot better about myself and my day. The Bible says that children are a gift from God, and now I am beginning to understand why. Without Haleigh, I wouldn’t begin to know all of my shortcomings. I would live life never fully realizing the weak spots in my character. But because I am committed to being the best parent I can be, I have to also commit to being the best person too.

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